NEWS: Franks embarrasses BT with indiscreet PR

British Telecom has apologised to Buckingham Palace for a ‘tasteless and inappropriate’ press release distributed by PR agency Lynne Franks.

British Telecom has apologised to Buckingham Palace for a ‘tasteless and

inappropriate’ press release distributed by PR agency Lynne Franks.



The controversial release promotes BT’s EasyReach pager as ‘the most

discreet way of conducting an affair without anyone finding out’ and

cites royal adulterers who had been caught out by traditional telecoms.



It says: ‘First there was the Squidgygate tapes, then came the notorious

Camillagate and Fergiegate affairs. Now with Prince Philip caught on

tape, the issue of how you can have a discreet affair without getting

caught looms large’.



The release goes on to list suggestive messages lovers could exchange

and advises that the pager’s 90 character capacity gives ‘enough space

to leave details of a secret rendezvous’.



Peter Kinsella, British Telecom’s head of newsroom, said Lynne Franks

issued the release without following the company’s normal clearance

procedure. BT first saw the release when it was faxed a copy by

Buckingham Palace’s press office.



The release generated a confidential memo from BT corporate relations

director Ian Ash to chairman Sir Iain Vallance and chief executive Sir

Peter Bonfield. In the memo, headed ‘Potential PR problem’, Ash advises

them that an agency had ‘issued a tasteless and inappropriate press

release in BT’s name without following the approvals process’.



British Telecom later sent a letter of apology to Buckingham Palace.



Kinsella said Lynne Franks was working on the EasyReach campaign as part

of its wider brief for the youth market. He would not comment on whether

BT would retain the agency for the pager business.



‘We are talking to Lynne Franks about this matter and we will resolve it

with them. They are still working with us on the EasyReach campaign and

they are obviously concerned about what happened.’



Lynne Franks won the BT youth contract, thought to be worth a six-figure

sum, in a pitch last spring. The agency did not return PR Week’s calls

on the issue.



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